« 이전계속 »
satire, of wits and actresses, and French taste, and snuff-boxes, and coffee-houses, and tea-tables, and bookstalls; peaceable times withal, notwithstanding Marlborough and Peterborough, and when politics, fierce as they were thought, were pastime for ladies and gentlemen compared with the fiery divisions of our age. These were essentially town times. The two rival nations were not so much England and France, as London and Paris. If the country is spoken of, it was in connexion with the landed interest, with town jokes ou the foxhunters, with the Bath, or Tunbridge Wells, or some tavern or assembly-rooms in the suburbs or if a man seriously went there and indulged himself in groves and haycocks, he was thought to be taking a liberty with the claims of the metropolis. I speak of the general character of the period. Dryden had a regard for the country, but the greatest praise he ever bestowed upon it was in compliment to his "honoured kinsman," a country squire. He there laughs at doctors, and other sophistications, and tells people never to take physic, but to go and get draughts of vital air. Yet his genius led him to live in town. He was laughed at for taking physic systematically; and probably after finishing his panegyric on the fields, went to settle his spirits at the.
"Supper and friends expect me at the Rose."
Pope was perhaps fonder of the country than any other of the wits; but his genius also lived in the town. He brought poetry into fashionable life, to wait upon ladies, and immortalize a toy. A drawing-room was to him what a desert island was to Shakspeare. He peopled it with suitable fancies. His body lived in the country; but that was because he had bad health. Addison's taverns and late hours were too much for him. Addison, Steele, Congreve, Rowe, Prior, Wycherly, Dorset, Garth, Arbuthnot, Vanbrugh, and twenty more, are all present to our imaginations as spirits of the town, rendering existing places the dearer, and the most fugitive manners immortal and Johnson stands by himself at the end, almost absorbing the light of a host of minor wits, with their clubs, dinners, and bon mots. Garrick sparkles about him, and Boswell ventures his little satellite,
Heavy Saturn laughs and leaps with him.
Whenever I take the round I have spoken of, my imagination is entertained with a succession of these men. I also look upon it as a piece of good fortune, both for me and for posterity, that some of the living wits whom I most admire and whom I have the pleasure of being acquainted with, are conversant with the same part of the town; so that the warmth of it is continued by living bodies. The house is still inhabited.
But that I may not be wanting to any humane part of the metropolis, I confess to have an inclination for Bond-street. Instead of pitching into the ancient Will Honeycomb, I sometimes pitch him into a modern beau, and becoming a lounger for his sake, turn up into that illustrious quarter, and commence bland eater of tarts, an indifferent possessor of two easy legs.
Bond-street, though a much admired, is also a much injured pavé. As there are some uninitiated minds who take every lounger to be on a par in the great world, so others with a precipitancy still more un
philosophical, conclude that every lounger is, or ought to be, of no consequence any where. With the first description of persons, (consisting, I own, of minds extremely infant, such as college-recluses, young ladies at boarding-school, and apprentice-boys who occasionally gape and whistle towards the West End.) Bond-street is a kind of republic of one's betters; where if all are not lords and ladies, all are hand and glove with those who are; forming a peripatetic peerage of bib and stay, a yellow and white-gloved aristocracy, privileged, like that of Venice, to have a place of perambulation to itself. I doubt whether some of these persons think that any body else could lounge in that street, if he had a mind. They imagine him, in a new and unauthorized territory, forced to hop or hurry along in spite of himself, and hustled out, not by the calm and superior intelligences who wind their easy way to and fro, but by the agitations and fatal flaps of his own conscience.
The other class of persons who are yet to seek in this matter (consisting chiefly of credulous play-goers, wise men in villages and countrytowns, and inconvenient old gentlemen in the city, who have sons) take upon them to pronounce every Bond-street lounger a fool and a puppy. If they allow him any sense, it is just enough to be a knave; which is not much. They figure him to their imaginations as a thin helpless-looking young man, extravagantly dressed, and perpetually lounging along with a drag in his gait and a drawl in his utterance. He is dressed according to the last new play. He occasionally eats tartlets, for which he never pays; and is the most ungrateful man in the world to him who was the making of him, to wit, his tailor. What aggravates this bitterness on the part of the citizen, is a persuasion that he is held in contempt by the fop at the West End; for as it is counted the height of laudability to be praised by the praiseworthy, people draw an erroneous conclusion, that no contempt can be more provoking, than to be despised by the despicable. Which by no means follows. For the praiseworthy applaud in consequence of knowledge; whereas the despicable scorn out of ignorance. But when any one class of men undertakes to have a contempt for another, it may be pretty sure it is wrong.
Loungers are divided into numerous classes, from the real dandy, who is badly imitated by the dandy commonly so called, down to the ambitious apprentice who dips into Bond-street in a flutter, and begins regulating his hands and his gait after the fashion of the glories about him. The various classes often know as little of, and think they have as great a contempt for one another, as the old citizen for them all. The true dandy has a name unworthy of him. He is nothing but a high-bred gentleman, somewhat ambitious in point of dress, but ambitious in the best taste, exquisitely clean and neat; and is a wit, and a man of reading. The common exaggerated dandy is properly the jack-a-dandy, or jack-daw of the dandy, imitating him in a preposterous manner, and pluming himself on feathers not his own. Then there is the lounger mercantile, the turf-lounger, the tavern-lounger (known by the red gills against his bibs), the ladies' assistant or shopping lounger, the lounger from public offices; besides twenty others, as numerous, and as little privileged among each other, as men of different reputations in other places, or as lords and ladies, merely be
cause they have those titles. I have been let into this knowledge by a friend of mine, a dandy par excellence, who has so much value for the solid part of his character above the ornamental, that he has not scrupled, among a knot of his most fantastical admirers, to take me by the hand, in full street, though I had so far forgotten Will Honeycomb, as to be carrying a parcel of books under my arm. I made haste to relieve some of the more distressed countenances by explaining that the parcel did contain books; but one of them still looked so disconcerted, that my friend, putting on one of his sarcastic smiles (which I have observed he oftener does in this street than any where else) said, "You will do nothing for him, Harry, unless you tell him what a book is." Upon which my adversary thought fit to laugh, and protest he knew too well, having just paid a large bill to his bookbinder. There was much humanity in this conduct of my friend. It would have been a more daring thing than it was in him, and a risk to his reputation, had he not been the man he is, but on all occasions he vindicates the dignity of wit and letters. Besides, on this particular one, he did not choose to see his friend at a disadvantage. With such a high hand does he carry matters in his circle, that I should not have been astonished had I met him with such a packet himself. The probable consequence would have been, that next day loungers might have been seen here and there with these mysteries under their arms. Fashion can do every thing, even sanction a bundle; which is a very difficult task with philosophy. If you wish to know whether any body is superior to the prejudices of the world, ask him to carry a parcel for you. Diogenes Laertius tells us a story of his great namesake, that being once requested by a certain young gentleman to teach him philosophy, he gave him a piece of cheese to carry; upon which the other declined his instructions on the spot. It was rather a hard commencement. I own I should have boggled at it, and requested some more urbane and liberal parcel. I should have argued, that I did not wish to be thought to care more for a piece of cheese than for the gracefulness of appearances. Diogenes would have said that this was idle, and that I ought to be perfectly independent of what others thought of me. I should have replied, with great submission, that my liberty of choice did not incline me to be a cheese-porter; and that I extracted a great many pleasures out of that reasonable regard to appearances, which gave him none, except in the contradicting. "Then why do you carry books?" "Because I am in a hurry to get home with them, and do not choose to wait for the bookseller. To be in haste to read books, and in haste to eat a bit of cheese, are two different things. Besides, I can buy a biscuit, which is more temperate and philosophic."-" Why not a pennyroll ?”—“Well, a penny-roll, if you insist upon it, and I am excessively hungry; otherwise if the people are looking at us, I will content myself with a bun, and you shall have the glory of the penny-roll." [This is the way to have the advantage of an ancient philosopher-to write the dialogue, and give one's-self the best of it. However, I do not think his cheese worth a better. Society is not to be changed by commencing lessons of philosophy in this manner.]
There are two sets of loungers for whom I have a regard; one, the very highest, of which the friend I have just mentioned is an ornament; the other, consisting of all the good-natured, gay young fellows
about town, in whom a little foppery is only one of the butterfly-varieties of their time of life. Nothing, except want of feeling, disgusts me with any man, but superciliousness and grossness, which are the two extremes of vulgarity. When I turn into Bond-street on a fine day, and see young and good-natured faces, handsome women, brilliant shops, lively and dashing carriages, and all that crowd of vitality and apparent content, which seems to exult and put forth its wings in the sunshine, like a stream of gay creatures in the air, I am content to grow warm and lively at the sight; and think myself no traitor to my father's republic, in wishing that a more equal division of wealth and labour might still leave us a similar exhibition. I must tell an anecdote to the honour of my friends in this quarter. Going up Wardour-street one night, I saw a blind man surrounded by a set of people, whom he was haranguing. He was very drunk, and had a flute in his hand. "Am I to be treated with contempt," cried he with a loud voice, and in very good style, "because I am blind and a beggar, and get my bread by playing the flute? I am no beggar if I do that; and if I were, have'nt there been the most glorious beggars? Wasn't Homer a beggar? And, wasn't he a wandering minstrel? And my sightless orbs! Am I to be abused on account of my sightless orbs, you rascals? Wasn't Homer blind too? Wasn't Milton blind? Wasn't the great Handel blind? Wasn't Painter blind?—(Painter was a singer at one of the Hospitals.)-Here a man interfered, and told him to go home, for he was in liquor; adding two or three words more, very sententious on that point. Upon which, the blind man, turning at him with a torrent of abuse, denounced him by a kind of intuition; for he ended by saying, "Go along; you're a footman." The man had a laced hat on. This delighted the rest; the poorer part of the world naturally having a pique at those idlers out of their ranks, who set up for gentlemen on the strength of being menials. I inquired into the origin of the blind man's quarrel, and was informed that he had cavalierly requested somebody to help him find out the street where he lodged. I asked him if I should help him; upon which he told me I was a gentleman, and he was afraid he should give me trouble, being, he must own, pretty nearly half seas over. I said there was so much the more necessity for helping him over the rest. We accordingly set out on a voyage of discovery for Mead's or Meard's Court, which was not far off; and I succeeded in landing him safely. He was profuse of his thanks. During the passage, I asked him where he got most money by playing his flute. He said in Bond-street.
In Bond-street lived, and I believe, died West, the friend of Gray; and there lived and died poor Yorick, who seems to have devoted his wits to the art of turning war into a benevolent hobby-horse, and setting the whole world upon repairing its losses. A strange fancy; but not to be despised, as the world goes. Neither of these persons, neither the quiet and amiable young man, nor the giddy sympathizer with his species, thought the lively crowd of Bond-street an unfitting scene for the heart to gaze upon, even in its dying moments. I fancy them going there to die, as others do in the sunshine of a summer garden. Life was going forward, and looking gay. The pulse beat well out of doors, to make amends for the faltering veins within. I like people who can live in this way, upon the strength of the life in others.
In short, when the inconsiderate abuse loungers and beaux by wholesale, they should be exhorted to 'reflect that youth is youth; that brilliancy and gaiety are in nature as well as art; and that some of the most staid and most solid of men have given into these fopperies for a time. I will whisper into the ear of those who can afford to hear it, that once upon a time, on a tennis-ground, Sir Philip Sidney himself was called " a puppy." My father remembered well, when Lord C., at present one of the plainest-dressing old gentlemen, and absorbed in his books, was a member of a small band of fops who made their appearance with red-heeled shoes and feathers in their hats. The same is related of Mr. Fox. And that the most romantic and poetical of modern times need not think they are going to lose all their relish for great things, by indulging themselves in a bib or a boot extra when young, let them know, what Johnson has not told them, that Collios the poet, whose appearance, when the Doctor knew him, was "decent and manly," and who "loved to gaze on the magnificence of goldenr palaces and repose by the water-falls of Elysium," was in his youth a gay fellow about town, dressed in the extremity of the fashion.*
These are my favourite places of perambulation in town. I am also a great explorer of the suburbs; of valleys four hundred yards wide, and woods which may be traversed in ten minutes. But there are images of greater things, and I am lucky enough to have an imagination. My greatest delights in London are the book-stalls, the theatres, and the company of some particular friends. They are too great, however, to be discussed at the end of an article; so I quit the town abruptly for the present.
POETICAL SCENES.-NO. IV.
RAFFAELLE AND FORNARINA.
[SCENE-A room in the Palace of the Prince C——————]
[RAFFAELLE JULIO ROMANO. (The picture of "The Triumph of Galatea" un
Julio. I do not like that head.
"Tis a woman's.
Wouldst have me paint each muscle starting forth?
I have done better things;
I'faith, that is a dove-eyed Triton.
* See the Gleaner, by Dr. Drake; a selection from periodical works now obsolete.